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Report on Galeras (Colombia) — March 2006


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 31, no. 3 (March 2006)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Galeras (Colombia) Heightened seismicity through April 2006; increased lava dome volume noted

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2006. Report on Galeras (Colombia) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 31:3. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN200603-351080



1.22°N, 77.37°W; summit elev. 4276 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Galeras was last reported on in BGVN 31:01. During the first weeks of November 2005 seismometers recorded tornillo earthquakes (long-period events with seismic traces that look like screws in profile and are currently thought to be related to pressurized fluid flow at shallow depth). Minor deformation was also recorded at Galeras. The earthquakes were similar to those that occurred before eruptions in 1992-93. On 24 November at 0246 seismic signals indicated the beginning of an eruption. Ash fell in the towns of Fontibon, San Cayetano, Postobon, and in north Pasto. Activity decreased by the next day, so the Alert Level was reduced. Thousands of people were evacuated during the week prior to the eruption. Gas emissions continued through December 2005 and January and February 2006. During 23 January to 6 February, the lava dome in the main crater continued to grow; strong degassing occurred in several sectors of the active cone and around the lava dome. Galeras remained at Alert Level 3 ("changes in the behavior of volcanic activity have been noted") through February 2006.

During the last week of February, seismic stations detected an average of 280 small earthquakes per day. On 26 February a shallow M 4.8 volcano-tectonic earthquake below the volcano was recorded at 1009, followed by 35 smaller earthquakes. SO2 flux of about 600 metric tons per day was measured during February. Steam and gas rose to ~ 700 m above the volcano.

During 27 February to 6 March an increase in the volume of the lava dome located in the main crater was observed. During March, seismicity at Galeras decreased in comparison to the previous several weeks and deformation was measured at the volcano. Plumes of mainly steam, gas, and small amounts of ash were emitted from the volcano and rose to a maximum height of 1.2 km above the volcano.

Due to an increase in tremor at Galeras beginning on the morning of 28 March 2006, INGEOMINAS raised the Alert Level from 3 to 2 (likely eruption in days or weeks). On 28 March, energetic signals and tremor began and seismic instruments detected very shallow low-energy hybrid signals, similar to ones recorded during 1991-1993 when dome emplacement occurred on the main crater's floor.

The increase in seismic energy ended on 29 March. The number of earthquakes beneath the volcano decreased during 28 March to 3 April (an average of 66 earthquakes was recorded daily), in comparison to the previous week (an average of 89 earthquakes was recorded daily). Steam columns rose up to ~ 500 m above the volcano and the outer layer of the lava dome at the volcano's summit cooled in comparison to previous weeks.

During 5-24 April, decreases were observed in seismicity, deformation, gas emissions, and temperatures. According to INGEOMINAS, most of the explosive eruptions at Galeras in the past 17 years occurred when parameters were at similarly low levels. In addition, the current lava dome has a significantly greater volume than the dome that was destroyed during an eruption in 1992. The volume of magma in the interior of the volcanic system is greater than during 1989-1993. Galeras remained at Alert Level 2.

Geological Summary. Galeras, a stratovolcano with a large breached caldera located immediately west of the city of Pasto, is one of Colombia's most frequently active volcanoes. The dominantly andesitic complex has been active for more than 1 million years, and two major caldera collapse eruptions took place during the late Pleistocene. Long-term extensive hydrothermal alteration has contributed to large-scale edifice collapse on at least three occasions, producing debris avalanches that swept to the west and left a large open caldera inside which the modern cone has been constructed. Major explosive eruptions since the mid-Holocene have produced widespread tephra deposits and pyroclastic flows that swept all but the southern flanks. A central cone slightly lower than the caldera rim has been the site of numerous small-to-moderate eruptions since the time of the Spanish conquistadors.

Information Contacts: Diego Gomez Martinez, Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Pasto (OVSP), INGEOMINAS, Carrera 31, 1807 Parque Infantil, PO Box 1795, Pasto, Colombia (URL: https://www2.sgc.gov.co/volcanes/index.html; Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC), Satellite Analysis Branch (SAB), NOAA/NESDIS E/SP23, NOAA Science Center Room 401, 5200 Auth Road, Camp Springs, MD 20746, USA (URL: http://www.ospo.noaa.gov/Products/atmosphere/vaac/); El Pais (URL: http://elpais-cali.terra.com.co/paisonline/).